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tv   Stand Your Ground Laws  CSPAN  November 3, 2013 6:30pm-8:01pm EST

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separately. >> we do not know what the house is going to do, because we have a very factionalized house of representatives. they say keep the food stamps and the farm bill separate raid -- separate. a lot of the institutions on capitol hill see themselves as them again the world. --against the world. the congresswoman is trying to be a good soldier, and the democrats are trying to get a bill through, but they know that the snap program is very important. if they had for different -- figured out how to bridge these gaps, we would have rogress. >> the house and senate conferees are trying to negotiate some sort of deal on
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what they call on the ground -- common ground. does the farm bill get thrown in hat? >> it could be part of the budget agreement, and that is a good and bad thing for the senate committee. it is good because it is part of the bill, but then they lose control of it at that point. > thank you for your time. >> john foster recently died when that super airport was being built and president eisenhower announced the airport would be named dulles airport. when ken d.u.i. took over he didn't want to name it that and finally the decision was made to
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name it after dulls. you can see the film clip of pulling back a curtain and there was a bus of dulles and it stands in the middle of the airport. i count find it. i asked where the big bust of dulles. nobody had heard of it. it was a long process and finally thanks to the washington airport authority i was able to discover that the bust had been taken away from the middle of the airport and it's in a closed conference room opposite baggage claim number three. and i find this a wonderful metaphor for how the dulles brothers who at one time exercised earth shattering power and were able to make and break governments have been effectively forgotten and airbrushed out of our entire
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history. >> the dulles brothers led both overt and covert operations for a good portion of the cold war. find out why the ramifications can still be felt some 60 years later tonight at 8:00 on c-span's q&a. >> c-span, we bring public affairs events from washington directly to you putting you in the room at congressional hearings, white house events, briefings and conferences and offering complete gavel to gavel cofrpbl of the u.s. house all as a public service of private industry. we're c-span, created by the cable industry 34 years ago and funded by your cable or satellite provider and now you can watch us in h.d. next a senate committee hearing on stand your ground laws. itnesses include the mother of
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trayvon mar on the. you'll hear from supporters of the law that currently exist in one form or another in as many as 30 states h. is an hour and a alf. >> can i ask you all to please stand. it is customary to administer the oath before the subcommittee. will your testimony be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so hope you god? let the record reflect that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. each witness will be given five minutes for an opening statement. any written statement will be admitted without objection. our first witness is sabrina fulton.
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she is the mother of trayvon martin. her son was shot and killed at the age of 17 on the night of february 26, 2012 in sanford, florida. his parents have created a foundation to provide support and advocacy for the victims of violent crimes. she is a graduate of florida memorial university. thank you for coming here today. please proceed with your testimony. >> thank you so much for taking the time to listen to what i have to say and the rest of the people who are testifying as ell. by nature, i am a mother. of two boys. i still support both of my sons. though trayvon is not with us,
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it is very important i tried to make a change for not only my oldest son, still here on here on earth, but also trayvon. it is unfortunate what has happened with trayvon. that is why i feel it is so important for me to be here so that you all can at least put a face with what has happened with this tragedy. trayvon had recently turned 17 years old. he had only been 17 for three weeks. e celebrated his 17th birthday february 5 and he was murdered on february 26. he had only been 17 for three weeks. t is very hurtful to know that
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he was only simply going to the store to get snacks. othing more. nothing less. t is important to keep that in mind. teenagers like to be independent at times. he was simply going to get a drink and some candy. that tells me right there his mentality. that tells me he was not going to get cigarettes or bullets or condoms or other items of that nature. he was going to get a drink and candy. trayvon was minding his own business. he was not looking for any type of trouble.
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e was not committing any crime. that is important to emember. hat the things that surround the tragedy that happened are most important, at the time that this happened to him, he was on a telephone call with a young lady from miami. that shows his mentality. that shows he was not looking for trouble. he was not the criminal that some people have tried to make him out to be. he was not the criminal the person who shot and killed him thought that he was. e was simply on his cell phone talking to a young lady in miami with candy and a drink. as i think about this, as a mother, and i think about how many kids walked to the store, and how many kids now feel they
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annot be safe in their own community, i think about what kind of message we are sending as parents, as lawmakers, as elected officials, even as grandparents and aunts and uncles. hat kinds of messages are we sending to our kids -- because, emember, these are our kids in our communities, they don't feel safe. hey don't feel safe simply walking into the store to get candy and a drink.
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so, i just wanted to come here to talk to you for a moment to let you know how important it is that we amend this stand your ground. t did not work in my case. the person who shot and killed my son is walking the streets today and this law does not work. we need to seriously take a look at this law. we need to seriously speak with the state attorney's office, the police departments, more attorneys, we need to do something about this law when our kids cannot feel safe in their own community. thank you. >> we are sorry for your loss. thank you for your courage in coming today. hank you also to trayvon's father. >> a clinical professor of law at harvard law school. he previously taught at yale law school. he received his ba for morehouse
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and his law degree from harvard. please proceed. >> thank you very much. good morning. let me also joined the chair and others in sharing and offering my condolences to you, ms. fulton. in order to understand stand your ground laws, we must appreciate the broader context. anctity of human life is a central value in our legal ystem. this is not a particularly controversial claim.
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interpreters and courts alike have recognized that human life is sacred. those who would extinguish human life carry a heavy burden. stand your ground laws, like all self-defense laws, require the heightened showing of necessity. the particular version of florida's 2005 law differs drastically from other laws and from the common law of self-defense in three respects. first, these laws remove the common law duty to retreat. this emboldens individuals to escalate a situation. the duty to retreat implies a duty to safely retreat. second, they shift the reasonable presumption of ear. under the florida law, he may be presumed to be fearful. this removes the responsibility to affirmatively show the necessity to take a human ife. thirdly, it has the unintended
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effect of encouraging vigilante is some that normal law revents. i discuss all of these issues at length in my written testimony. i also analyze the empirical evidence. to say that these laws decrease the incidence of crime, i think here are correlations there, ut i have not found causal evidence. stand your ground has little impact on homicide reduction. they appear to correlate with an
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increase in certain types of violent crime. time does not permit me more etail. i will make observations about rayvon martin. mr. zimmerman's acquittal was made possible because the stand your ground law and concealed weapon law conspired -- they allowed him to carry a loaded firearm, disregarded the 911 dispatcher, and to stand his ground when trayvon sought to defend himself. to mr. zimmerman, marked blackness likely served as a crude proxy for criminality. this sends a twofold message. t tells floridians that they can profile young black children, kill them, and be protected. it also sends a more ominous
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message to young black children. i consider myself fortunate to live in a jurisdiction that does not have these laws. but what if it did? i have an african-american son who is just shy of his 13th birthday. what advice would i give him? i regret the only responsible advicem, if i lived in such a jurisdiction, would be to use any force to protect himself. i would rather my son be alive and able to argue that he stood his ground than dead and portrayed by lawyers and the media and politicians as some stereotypical black male criminal. this is not a desirable america for anyone. i don't want my son growing up in such an america.
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i suggested that states pass laws to help police and citizens go about the process of building communities. thank you. >> our next witness is the president and ceo of the association of prosecuting attorneys. he was the director of the american prosecutors research institute. he was also a deputy district attorney in orange and humboldt counties in california. please proceed. >> good morning. thank you for the opportunity to testify. we support and enhance prosecutors in creating safer communities. on behalf of association of prosecuting attorneys, i am
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pleased to address the issues around the stand your ground laws. we seek to do justice for victims and hold offenders accountable, especially when life has been violently ended. since 2009, we have tracked the legislative progression of stand your ground. i have attached my testimony with our statement of principles. these laws raise troubling and dangerous concerns. we have overwhelmingly opposed stand your ground laws. the current concerns include the limitation or elimination of prosecutors being able to hold violent criminals
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accountable. these diminish the need to retreat, and the common law. violent acts can be committed with justification. these laws have negatively affected public safety and police procedures. they have stymied prosecutors. in some states, courts have interpreted the law to create community hearings to transfer the role of jury to judge. there has been inconsistent application throughout the states and even within states. all have been left to guess what behavior is legal and what is criminal. defendants, victims, families, friends, trial courts, prosecutors have been forced into a case-by-case analysis with no legal certainty of what
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to expect once i life has been taken. they prevent prosecutors from bringing cases against those who claim self-defense after unnecessarily killing others. in florida 2008, a drug dealer killed two men in two separate incidents. prosecutors had to conclude that both incidents were legal under stand your ground laws. the proper use of prosecutorial discretion -- i have not seen evidence of the contrary. after reviewing the legislative history, it involved no arrest or prosecution. the law enforcement community
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responded properly and the omeowner was not arrested or charged. because the laws vary, i will summarize. the meaning of unlawful activity -- many states have extended protection to people who are in a place where they have a right to be but are not engaged in a lawful activity. immunity is rarely granted in riminal law. the legislature should review the immunity provisions and clarify the self-defense provisions. this coupled with an objective standard will approve
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accountability while protecting the right of self-defense. the statute should be amended. some laws allow a person to ttack a person with deadly force -- the initial aggressor cannot escape. we recommend that the law be limited. t should not be applicable against a law officer. taken together, these reforms will help minimize the detrimental effects of these laws and restore the abilities of investigators and prosecutors to fully enforce the law while continuing to respect the rights of law-abiding citizens.
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thank you for holding this hearing. i do want to reflect that the decision to take life is one of the most solemn decisions any person can ever raise or be faced with. t should not be taken my leg. public policy should not ncourage it. both lives are forever changed. thank you. >> a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the cato institute. he was a special advisor on rule of law issues to the multinational force in iraq. he received an undergraduate
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degree from princeton, a masters from the london school of economics, and a law degree from the university of chicago law school. please proceed. >> thank you for this opportunity. it is most appropriate that this hearing was originally scheduled for september 17. public schools have to teach about our founding document. my organization celebrates obstetrician date by releasing our supreme court review. in reality, every day is constitution day. stand your ground is tremendously misunderstood. all it does is allow people to defend themselves without having so-called duty to retreat. that concept has been part of u.s. law for over 150 years. 31 states have some type of tand your ground doctrine. the vast majority in common law, efore legislature took any
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action. california and virginia maintain it without any legislation still. of the 15 states that have passed stand your ground since 2005, a majority have democratic governors. louisiana and west virginia past them with democratic control of both houses. even florida passed the state senate and split democrats in the house. state senator barack obama cosponsored a bill that was unanimously approved. many red states impose a duty to retreat. indeed, it is a universal principle that a person can use force when she reasonably believes that it is necessary defend against the use of eminent force. she is justified in using deadly force if she reasonably believes it necessary to prevent bodily harm.
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it is not an easy defense to assert. it certainly does not mean you can shoot first and ask questions later. these are not a license to be a vigilante. that is why this debate is not new. in ancient britain, when the deadliest weapons were sorts, a duty to retreat greatly reduced blood feuds. despite what gun prohibitionists claim, the no retreat rule has deep roots in american law. a unanimous 1895 case of beard versus the united states. in places with the duty to retreat, crime victims can be imprisoned for defending themselves. omestic violence victims are
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harmed by duty to retreat. feminists support stand your ground. these laws are to support law-abiding citizens. it is bad enough for an innocent person to find herself threatened by a criminal, but to then have to worry about whether she can retreat lest she faced lawsuits -- that is too much to ask. detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife. nearly a century later, we hould not demand more. any self-defense rule bears the prospect of injustice. in a two person altercation, one may be dead and the other may do be a sleek claim of defense. f george zimmerman was the
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aggressor, then he has no soft defense rights at all. if trayvon attack zimmerman, the only question is whether zimmerman believed he was in danger, not whether he could have retreated. if zimmerman provoked the confrontation, he does not fall under stand your ground. while anti-gun lobbyists have used that tragedy and trayvon martin to pitch all sorts of gun control laws, what they really target is the right to armed self-defense. prosecutors need to show evidence to counter claims of self-defense, not simply argue that the shooter should have retreated. for those of all you due process, that is a feature. i should mention one episode that has contributed to the sensationalism around this debate. i have submitted with this statement chairman durban's
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response and cato's esponse. > thank you. our next witness is the president of the crime prevention research center. he previously served at the university of chicago and yale. he is a weekly columnist and contributor for foxnews.com. please proceed. >> thank you very much. tand your ground laws help people be able to defend hemselves. the people who are most likely to be victims of violent crime are poor blacks who benefit from the option of being able to
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protect themselves. what is being lost is the reason why states adopted these laws. in florida, blacks make up about 16% of the population but they account for 31% of the state's efendants in stand your ground prosecutions. there is detailed data on stand your ground cases up through july 24 of this year. the newspaper collected 112 cases. he information that they had were shocking findings. 2% of those who killed a black person were not convicted.
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0% of those who will the hispanic were not convicted. the vast majority of these the vast majority of these crimes are within race. 90% of blacks who were killed in stand your ground cases were killed by other blacks. in the case of whites, almost 85%. in the case of hispanics, 100%. the basic point is that you are going to concentrate on the fact that relatively few people who kill blacks are going to be convicted using stand your ground defenses, you have to realize that almost all those people who are not being convicted are blacks. 69% of blacks who raised the "stand your ground" defense were not convicted. that compares to less than 62% for whites.
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82% of hispanics who raised the "stand your ground" are not convicted. if blacks are supposedly being discriminated against because the killers are so often not facing any penalty, wouldn't it also follow that blacks are being discriminated in favor of if they are convicted at much lower rates than other racial groups? the problem also is not all these cases are the same. blacks who are killed in confrontations were 13% points more likely to be armed than whites. by a 43% to 63% margin, blacks killed by other blacks were more often in the process of committing another crime. they also work involved in cases where they were more likely to have a witness present. if you go and run regressions
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where they account for other factors that were brought up by the data set, what you find is white defendants are more likely to be convicted than black defendants. people invoking "stand your ground" laws to kill blacks were also more likely to be convicted than those who killed whites. what you find when you look at it, and fortunately this is the case, the people who initiate the conversation will be more likely convicted. when there were eyewitnesses, they were less likely to be convicted. armed individuals were more than one person were killed were also much more likely to result in convictions. the institute report that was brought up earlier actually shows the opposite of what has been quoted here. one important thing to mention, john roman, who wrote this, noted "stand your ground loss aws appear to exacerbate racial
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differences," but it knowledge his datanowledges lacks detail available in the "tampa bay tribune" data. if you go through his paper, what you find is no data, no information on whether an eyewitness saw the competition, no evidence -- no data on whether there was physical evidence. no evidence on a whole range of things in order to try to factor those into account. the big thing if you look at his study, the central finding is to look at table three, and what you find is when blacks are under "stand your ground" laws, their situation in terms of conviction rates actually fall. if you look at the texas a&m study that was mentioned, they do not account for any other gun-control laws. if you're going to look at "stand your ground" laws,
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whether you have right to carry, the number of people of permits is important. if you're talking about castle doctrines, whether people are able to get quick access to guns is going to be important. again, nothing about gun laws are accounted for in those studies. when you do that, the results also disappear. >> thank you, mr. lott. our final witness is lucia mcbath. she is the mother of jordan russell davis, who was shot and killed on november 23, 2012 at a gas station in taxable, florida. mcbath and jordan's father, ron, have become advocates for reducing gun violence. mcbath is the national spokesperson for an organization known as moms demand action for gun sense in america. she recently found to be walk -- founded the walk with jordan scholarship foundation providing assistance for graduating high school students. she is a graduate of virginia state university, and before you say a word, i would like to thank all the members of the panel for their patients in a
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patience in the rescheduling of this hearing. we had a chance to meet what was previously rescheduled, and i am glad we had those moments. please proceed with your testimony. >> thank you. good morning, chairman durban and honor members of the subcommittee. my name is lucia mcbath. i was raised in a family steeped in justice. and confident in the triumph of goodness of humanity. my mother was a registered nurse, and my father, who served in the u.s. army dental corps, was also for 20 years president of the naacp for the state of illinois. he worked actively with the president lyndon b. johnson and the signing of the civil rights act of 1964. if he could see me here today, testifying in front of the u.s. senate, he would be beaming with pride and amazed at how far his daughter had come until he came
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to understand what brought me here. i appear before you because my son, jordan, was shot and killed last november while sitting in the backseat of a friend's car listening to loud music. the man who killed him opened fire on four unarmed teenagers, even as they try to move out of harm's way. that man was empowered by the "stand your ground" statute. i'm here to tell you there was no ground to stand. there was no threat. no one was trying to invade his home, his vehicle, nor threatened him or his family. there was a vociferous argument
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about music, during which the accused, michael dunn, did not feel that he was treated with respect. you are not going to talk to me like that, he shouted as he sprayed the car that jordan sat in with bullets. killing him instantly. when jordan's friends tried to back the car away, mr. dunn aimed his handgun and fired off several more rounds. nine total pierced the car. there are any number of ways that this interaction might have gone, but there was only one way it could have ended once a gun into the equation. -- entered the equation. in florida, over one million people carry concealed weapons. additionally, 10,000 to 15,000 more floridians are approved to carry guns in public every
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month, faster than any state in the nation. nationally, florida has some of the loosest permitting requirements. automobile glove boxes are becoming modern-day gun boxes. in his glove box, michael dunn kept a nine millimeter semiautomatic gun along with two loaded magazines. once he had unloaded his gun at my son, and his teenage friends, he immediately went back to his hotel, ordered a pizza, and slept. he left the scene and made no attempt to call police. he retreated, but only after he killed my son. the next morning, he was arrested two hours away. those are hardly the actions and motives of someone who was
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quaking with fear. some will tell you that the argument was about music, but i believe that it was about the availability of guns and the eagerness to hate. people like mr. dunn feel empowered to use their gun instead of their voice to reason with others. now i face a very real possibility that my son's killer will walk free, hiding behind the statute that lets people claim a threat where there was none. this law declares open season on anyone that we don't trust for reasons that we don't even have to understand. they don't even have to be true. in essence, it allows any armed citizen to self deputize themselves and establish their own definition of law and order.
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it lets one and all define their own criteria for right and wrong and how justice will be carried out. even the wild west had more stringent laws governing the taking of life than we have now. "stand your ground" defies all reason. it goes against the sound system of justice established long ago on this very hill. my son was named for the jordan river. in the bible, that river symbolized the crossing to freedom. its waters marked the final steps to liberation, and offered up the holy stream that baptized jesus. its name seemed a fitting choice for a boy born at the end of the 20th century, a time when black people in this country had finally come into their own.
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jordan was named for a change in the tide, a decision to try harder and do better. he was my only child. he was raised with love and learning in a clear understanding of right and wrong. i have been without jordan now since thanksgiving weekend 2012. without him last christmas and on his birthday in february. i never got to take a prom picture or see him graduate from high school. i can tell you all about him. about his easy smile. his first girlfriend. and his plans to join the marines. i can tell you how he loved his dad's gumbo, and how they both rooted for the new york giants,
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but you can never really know my boy because an angry man who owned a gun kept it close at hand and chose to demonstrate unbridled hatred one balmy evening for reasons i will never understand. these laws empowered his prejudiced beliefs and subsequent rage over my son's own life, his liberty and pursuit of happiness. there will be made no sense of any of it in i and the families -- unless i and the families of other victims speak out to assure that this kind of predatory violence ends. it was 50 years ago that my father shook hands with eleanor roosevelt. she assured him of the validity of his struggle and the promise of better times. she, as he did, believe that
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this nation was righteous to the core, that we as a country would never stop striving to do better, and that was what made us better. honorable men and women of the senate, you can prove them right today. with your help and willingness to bring our laws back to the true tenets of justice, you can lift this nation from its internal battle in which guns rule over right. you have the power to restore hope to a nation crying out for justice. i pray that you hear the will of the lord. thank you. >> thank you, ms. mcbath. we will now turn to questions for the witness, and each member of the many will have seven minutes. i will start.
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thank you ms. fulton and ms. mcbath for your courage in coming here today. i find it hard to understand those who defend "stand your ground" by arguing that african americans should celebrate these laws. the notion that somehow this is to the benefit of african or minorities in this country just defies the stories that we have been told by both of you. innocent children -- children -- killed in the name of self- defense, when in neither instance was there evidence of aggressive or violent combat by these victims, these young men who were shot down. professor sullivan, you've heard these arguments made, two members of the panel and a member here, about this notion that somehow african americans should view this as a positive
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thing on "stand your ground." what would you respond? >> i would agree with your statement, senator durbin. it is not a positive thing for anyone where citizens of the united states are running to shoot each other. whether the perpetrator is african american or the victim is african american, it really does not matter. we do not live in the wild wild west here any longer. private law enforcement has an -- a deleterious effect on our country, and we should leave it to trained police officials to engage in this sort of behavior. >> mr. labahn, your testimony, i've read over last night and again this morning, and i was particularly moved by one section of it that i would like to repeat. you stated "by expanding the realm in which violent acts can be committed without the justification of self-defense, "stand your ground" laws have negatively affected public health and undermined
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prosecutorial and law enforcement officers to keep communities safe." you then go on to talk about a specific case. february 2008, which you mention in your testimony. "a 29-year-old drug dealer killed two men in two separate incidents. the first drug-related, the second over retaliation for the first. though he was engaged in unlawful activity in both instances, selling drugs during the first shooting, using an illegal gun in the second, prosecutors had to glue the -- had to conclude that both homicides were justified under the florida "stand your ground" law." unfortunately, you going to say "this example is not an anomaly. the majority of defendants shall live by "stand your ground" laws had arrest records prior to the homicide at issue." if we had called as a witness a person representing the national
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association of criminal defense attorneys, maybe some people would have understood oh, i can see where they're going. but in your case, you were -- represent the profession of those who prosecute criminal, and you are saying "stand your ground" laws are not working to the benefit and defense of america. tell me why you have come to the conclusion. >> well, senator, i think you give the example, and i can give the committee additional examples, but i was stuck right away with your question about the national association of criminal defense lawyers. on behalf of apa, we work closely with the defense bar, and this is one of the areas in which we diverge. this is good for the defense. when i testified down in florida, this is good for the defendant -- >> you are saying the criminal defense lawyers were arguing that "stand your ground" were good for criminal defendants. >> that the role of the criminal defense attorney is to get their client off on the criminal action.
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the role of the prosecutor is to seek justice. so on behalf of the criminal defendants, this is a good law. look at the ambiguities that are here, look at the specific examples. you talk about -- here is a drug dealer. at the time of the killing, he was not selling. if he had been selling drugs, it would have been unlawful activity. but he was in a place he had the right to be, and he was not selling at that moment, therefore he had a right to defend himself. the second piece -- as i mentioned in my testimony -- if someone is a convicted felon, they have no right to possess a firearm. yet, they can go ahead under "stand your ground" and use that firearm and be free and not be held accountable. the stories are unbelievable. january 2012, another florida case, the victim -- again, the victim of the shooting did something wrong, no question about that, but in this
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situation, someone sees their car being burglarized. they go ahead, they yell at them, get out of my car. they chased them down and knifed them to death. they never reported it, never called 911, never said anything about it, and then when confronted said i was defending my property. the texas example, november 2007, the horn case that was broadly disseminated out to the country. the gentleman looks and sees his neighbor's house being in, calls -- being burglarized. calls 911 to report it, 911 urged him to stay in your house, we will get him and take care of it. no, instead he goes ahead and shoots both of those two, and i believe they were juvenile dead, and then goes ahead and
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exercises "stand your ground," and that when in front of the harris county grand jury. the harris county grand jury found that to be "stand your ground." immunity is crazy. that is not what it should be. it should be an affirmative defense. that has caused these problems. on behalf of prosecutors, these acts do nothing but cause difficulties. >> it appears that this law is an invitation for confrontation. historically, if you could safely retreat, that was your duty, except in your home. the castle doctrine, i believe, made a clear distinction when it came to your home and that circumstance. but the new laws, the "stand your ground" laws, have a result of unreasonableness. could either of you testify about how florida could change their law and what their reason for a reason for a change? -- what they are raising as a
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reason for a change? >> i think they are raising as a reason for a change the fact that the law produces absurd results. one of the things they are thinking about changing is clearly establishing this principle of first aggressor, and whether first aggressors can avail themselves of the law. duty to retreat, if i can, senator, is important because i have heard comments today that are plainly wrong with respect to historically what duty to retreat means. you said it. it means safely retreat. it is not mean stand there foolishly and he brutalized because of some law. if it is unsafe to retreat, nowhere in our history is an individual required to retreat. rather, only if it is safe to retreat. this is just the norm of good judgment, the exercise of good judgment, a norm that prevents a sort of vigilantism that we see in these many cases that were
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cited. finally, i think florida should tweak the immunity provision. my point is that immunity along with the changing presumption conditions a certain response in people. that is, people that know this law behave in a way, a much more aggressive, frontiersman-like way. they would not comment if it were not for the broad, expansive protection of these laws. it is quite different from the historical self-defense laws. it is even different from the stand your ground iterations historically. 2005 marks an extreme difference in the way that these laws were written. >> thank you. >> mr. chair, thank you. to respond to your question about florida, the other significant thing that florida is doing and has passed out of
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the committee is the immunity provision. they are working on that -- there was the civil portion to save someone's brazen pillar -- someone sprays and kills a that theyeople, should not be civil immune, especially hitting an innocent bystander. i testified in front of the commission, and now they are stepping forward and changing the flawed law. may i add one other comment? william meggs was unable -- he is the second judicial circuit prosecutor out of florida. he was unable to attend today. his closing comments are so very important, and that was "should we have a duty to act reasonably toward one another? that was the law before "stand your ground," and the law that we should return. this makes it easy for the criminals to get away with the most heinous crimes." that is why, on behalf of prosecutors, i stand here today. >> thank you. senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. senator.
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i would like to enter in for the record a statement from senator cornyn of texas. i would like to thank the panelists for being here. in particular, ms. fulton and mcbath. thank you for being here, thank you for sharing your stories. every parent understands the mourning you are feeling. it is always a tragedy when a child loses his life. please know that we are all feeling your loss and express our very sincerest condolences. much of the discussion this afternoon has concerned the tragic circumstances of the trayvon martin case.
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none of us in this hearing room were there that night. none of us knows precisely what happened. we do know that there was a violent altercation between a hispanic man and an african- american teenager, and we know that at the end of the confrontation, the teenager was dead. what exactly occurred that night, no one in this room likely will know for sure. but we do know some things. we know that our system of justice has a process for ascertaining what happens when there is a violent confrontation, particularly one that leads to loss of life. that process is a jury trial. a jury of mr. zimmerman's peers heard the evidence in that case. he was prosecuted in that case.
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and the jury rendered a conclusion. we don't know if the jury was right or wrong, but we do know that the jury system is the only system that our judicial system has for ascertaining what happened, particularly when you have a one-on-one confrontation, that can be particularly difficult to determine what the facts are. but we also know that the subject of this hearing, the "stand your ground" laws, was not a defense that mr. zimmerman raised. so this entire hearing, the topic of this hearing, is not the issue on which that trial turned. and sadly, we know that some in our political process have a desire to exploit that tragic, violent incident.
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for agendas that have nothing to do with that young man who lost his life. we have seen efforts to undermine the verdict of the jury, and more broadly to inflame racial tensions that i think are sad and irresponsible. i recognize that for the family, you are simply mourning the loss of your son, and i understand that, but there are other players who are seeking to do a great deal more, based on what happened that florida night. i would note additionally that the chairman of this committee a moment ago made, i thought, a remarkable statement to the effect that no one could reasonably believe that "stand your ground" laws protect those
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in the african-american communities who are victims of violent crimes. i think that is a remarkable statement on many fronts, including the fact that a great many african americans find themselves victims of violent crime and have inserted this defense to defend themselves, defend their families, defend their children. but i also find it remarkable because the assertion that no one reasonably could suggest this benefit of the african- american community is drawn into remarkable relief when one keeps in mind that in 2004, a state senator in illinois by the name of barack obama cosponsored an expansion of illinois's law providing immunity for those to use the law to defend themselves. the notion that "stand your ground" laws or some form of veiled racism may be a
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convenient political attack, but it is not borne out by the facts. i want to secondly note the issue of alec, an organization that exists to encourage commonsense legislation in state legislatures. i would like to enter into the record multiple letters that have been submitted to me by organizations that are concerned about the targeting of alec in conjunction with this hearing. i would note that it should always be a concern when you see the united states senate targeting the exercise of free speech. this observation is not unique to me. indeed, on august 8, 2013, the "chicago tribune" wrote an editorial that stated "free speech is not always free."
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it gets cumbersome with senators have you on their enemies list. it would be wrong to use this as a cudgel against his enemies, and i certainly hope that the senate hearing does not become an avenue to suppress free speech. a final point i would like to make, by its definition, the "stand your ground" law does not apply to aggressors. explicitly excludes aggressors. i would note, ms. mcbath, the evening your son lost his life, the defense would not apply, would not even arguably apply. it is a defense that only, only, only applies to those who are
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the victims or potential victims of other violent aggressors. indeed, it is only triggered when there is "an imminent attack that could cause death or serious bodily injury." so this is a doctrine that by definition is not up by to -- does not apply to aggressors. and it only applies when death or serious bodily injury. -- injury is at risk. in a confrontation between a violent aggressor in a potential innocent victim, a potential innocent victim seeking to protect himself, herself, or her children, with whom do we stand? i believe we should stand with the innocent against aggressors. that is why the right to self- defense has been so critical.
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i hope that we will not see the constitutional rights of innocent citizens sacrificed because of political agendas of some. thank you. >> i asked the patience of my colleague from connecticut since the senator from texas has raised some personal issues. i am going to respond to them. let me be very specific when i say this -- don't take my word for it. take the testimony of hilary shelton, director of the naacp washington bureau, in which he states "few issues have caused as much angst and raise as many deeply held concerns among our members and the communities we serve as that of "stand your ground" laws. these laws and their applications have sadly resulted in no less than the murder of people who were doing nothing more than walking down the street." the statement in the record by hilary shelton of the naacp. this continued reference to
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inflaming racial tensions, we've heard this before, over and over again. we have problems with the issue of race in america that we have to face squarely. when people are being discriminated against, whoever, wherever in america, the subcommittee on the constitution civil rights and human rights is not going to back away. the second point i would like to make is this --there are many victims when it comes to "stand your ground" laws. alec is not one of them. i will concede that i asked people who were publicly identified as supporters of this organization if they supported the "stand your ground" law. only one out of 140 that responded said that they supported it. i'm not going to enter the names into the record, for the very point is made by the senator from texas. i do not want to establish any chilling effect on political participation, but i think it is
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reasonable to ask the members of an organization if they agree with that organization's agenda, an agenda which mr. piscopo, with who is now the chairman of alec from the state of connecticut says they no longer stand by. i'm not going to enter names into the record. but isn't it interesting that only one supported alec's agenda on "stand your ground" laws? that is sad. senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. this hearing is not only a legitimate but a necessary hearing. it is profoundly important that we face these issues of human rights, which hopefully are also matters of constitutional right, and i want to thank everyone of the witnesses, all of you for being here today, especially ms. fulton, ms. mcbath, for your stories and your first-hand
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experiment, which is so profoundly important because we can have theoretical and rhetorical debates here, but what really matters is what happens to these doctrines of law. in the streets, in the courtroom, when they are explained to juries. i say that as a prosecutor. prosecutors will often say to me that the most difficult times for them in prosecuting a case is when the judge tried to explain the law to a jury. how do you explain "stand your ground" in the complex, challenging, often emotionally- charged time when a jury has to
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decide whether a person's liberty should be taken away, and sometimes even a person's life as a result of the alleged commission of a serious crime? and so i must say, your testimony has special meaning to me. the myriad of fact, and try to present them to a judge or a jury in a way that results in justice. you used one word that i think is profoundly important -- ambiguity. "stand your ground" as opposed to self-defense, even as i sit here, i wrestle with what the distinctions are in real life,
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and how they are explained to juries, and that is why i agree with senator durbin that the ambiguity of these doctrines can encourage violence and confrontation. the apparent approval that it may give to people who feel that they've been insulted and may be threatened, not physically but verbally, it seems to me can result in a hope of acquittal or non-conviction, and thereby encourage violence. maybe you can speak to how in the courtroom this doctrine of "stand your ground" has a practical impact. >> thank you, senator. here i am in front of not one
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for most attorney general but not one former attorney general but two former attorney generals. i have to be really good on my law, especially as you talk about the courtroom. first of all, what this law does is place it either as murder or nothing. you talk about the ambiguity. somebody chooses to take an action and chooses to intentionally kill another, and usually the role of the prosecutors with homicide -- is it manslaughter or is it a murder? if it is a murder, is it a first or second? are there special circumstances? when you put this, both the presumption and the immunity provisions in there, you create a situation where it furry difficult to determine what kind of a crime it is.
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but especially as it relates to florida, you are put into that box. it is either murder or nothing. secondly, there has been some discussion here about the aggressor, and i like the committee to look at that chapter, 776.041 of the florida statute and why "stand your ground" didn't apply any trayvon trayvonply to the martin case and apply directly. it is because 776.041 says use of force by aggressor. clearly with in that statute, they allowed, and the person reasonably believed, so is a subjective belief by mr. zimmerman that he was about -- imminent danger -- that therefore justified his use of force, which goes right with what one of the jurors said. the jurors follow the law. the law said you can use that reasonable force under the florida "stand your ground" if you believe that you are reasonably in an imminent threat. yes, it is incredibly difficult. the ambiguity is never good. the other test we use with ambiguity is how did the
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appellate decisions come out of a particular statute? all of you know how many criminal statutes get past, how many end up appealed and get reversed. stand your ground is one of the most appealed, especially as it relates to homicide cases. and that is why i say the ambiguity is incredibly apparent. just look at nexus if you want to see all the different ways that this has been appealed. >> in your experience, mr. labahn, do the members of your organization overwhelmingly share your view? >> they do. that is why i point to the statement of principles. also the difference between the legislative branch as well as the executive branch. my members of the executive branch, once a legislature steps forward and passes a law, we must do everything we can to try to seek justice in those cases just like what occurred in florida. and even with that opposition, they are enforcing it.
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>> in your experience, do the overwhelming majority of police officers share this you? -- view? >> again, the officers that i am working with, yes, very sincere. that is why i talk about justified killing an officer. i believe indiana flip that around and basically encourages come as you talk about public policy, to go ahead and take an officer's life and lets you at the citizen believes that that officer was following in the course and scope of employment. that is craziness. >> so police officers feel these laws may in effect represent a threat to them. >> back to the ambiguity. they might be serving a search warrant, or in plainclothes, not a uniform. i believe georgia's cases on point down. they require actual knowledge is that of an officer doing their job. officers don't know what to do when you have a statute that says you cannot arrest, yet you
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are supposed to investigate. what does that mean? >> i think you say well in your testimony when you say prosecutors -- and i'm quoting "prosecutors, judges, and ordinary citizens have been left to guess what behavior is legal and what is criminal." which i think it's the point about ambiguity. >> and there should not be ambiguity in something like murder, senator. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. shapiro, i know you have to leave and catch a train. thank you for being here today. >> one of the questions in the debate is how diverse the states seem to be in terms of arriving at the same conclusion where you have michigan, nevada, new hampshire, pennsylvania with "stand your ground" laws, and you have a lot of southern states where -- i guess the point i'm trying to make, it
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seems to be that democrats and republicans, depending on what state you are from, sent to embrace these laws -- seem to embrace these laws. democratic governors have signed in "stand your ground" laws, so i hope this is not turn into the republicans are for it and the democrats are against it. it seems to be a pretty diverse mix of views. mr. sullivan, from the federal point of view, there are remedies available to the federal government if there has been an injustice that the state level. is that correct? in any case, the trayvon martin case, the case here in illinois, the justice department could if they chose pursue federal action. is that correct? >> absolutely. >> do you agree with attorney general holder's decision not to pursue a federal civil rights case in the trayvon martin? >> i do. based on the standard that needs to be satisfied in order to move forward with a case like that.
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the federal government would have to demonstrate that at the moment of the violent encounter mr. zimmerman behave as he did as a function of racial animus, and i am not sure there is sufficient evidence therefore -- there for the federal government to go forward. so i tend to agree with that case -- with that decision on that basis, and also in a more credential basis that the federal government should be cautious and exercise discretion and going in and upsetting a state verdict. >> i agree with you. i hope i am not hurting your reputation. >> you have enhanced my reputation, senator. >> i am honored that you would say that. i think that is a pretty reasonable view because i know there is a lot of pressure being applied to the attorney general
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and quite frankly the president. we are talking about trying cases in the political arenas is not probably a good idea but having victims speak up, having mother speak up about losing their children, that is very appropriate, and i hope we will listen and learn where we can. if you were defending a case like the trayvon martin case, would you have done similar things as the defense? >> you would have to be a little more specific -- >> is there anything wrong in that case, anything unethical? >> i will not charge a fellow lawyer with unethical behavior without knowing more. i was deeply troubled by the caricature of trayvon as a personification of a stereotype. trayvon martin a thug, trayvon martin as criminal. i was deeply troubled by that
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overlay over the criminal justice system. whether that violated florida's professional rules of conduct, i do not know, i have not studied them with any detail in order to make that sort of claim. that i would not have done. i will say -- >> have you ever defended a person accused of rape? >> personally? i have. >> have you ever questioned the victim? >> i have. >> i guess the point from ms. martin's point of view, your son was a fine young man. i am trying to sit there and think, as a parent, listen thing -- listening to all of this, what i would feel. that i have been a defense lawyer. the person expected to vigorously defend the interests of the client, and that is why we have rape shield laws. we are trying to get that balance between how far can you go in attacking the victim to protect the rights of the
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accused. in terms of the racial implications of that case, i think that it seems to be from an objective point of view that "stand your ground" laws -- most violent crime is within the community itself, is that correct? >> that is exactly right. >> i am just trying to come to grips with the idea that somehow this law has a racial injustice about it. do you think it does, mr. sullivan? >> i think the impact of the law has a disparate racial tilt. that troubles me profoundly.
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"stand your ground" was used in this particular case, if i can just amend what senator cruz said. is not entirely correct to say that "stand your ground" was not part of this case. mr. zimmerman did not avail himself of the immunity portion of "stand your ground," however the judge constructed consistent with florida law, which included an expressed statement of "stand your ground" if you felt like you were imminently in fear of death or bodily injury, then mr. zimmerman had his right to "stand your ground" and use deadly force in response. i may have cited it in my written testimony, if not, i will provide it. "stand your ground" was front and center in this case, just not the immunity portion of "stand your ground." >> mr. lott's rendition of statistics were pretty compelling. i do not claim to be an expert in this area. i guess my politician's point of view, when you have people like governor granholm and joe manchin, somebody i actually know, i do not believe in their mind at the time they signed
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these laws into law that they felt that that was what they were doing. can you understand how somebody could come to a different conclusion? >> of course. i do not think legislators sat down and said let's think about how we can prejudice minorities. sometimes, because this is a human enterprise -- juries are human beings. juries carry the baggage, unfortunately, this country has. sometimes, the laws express themselves in various sorts of ways. in terms of the specifics, i -- the statistics, i spent a lot of time, probably bore d your staff senseless in terms of reading the statistical analysis there. with all respect my friend, you ask 10 economists a question, you get 11 different responses
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in terms of what the data means. there is a lot of noise. there is a lot of noise in the data. but what you do see is examples like jordan and trayvon. my only point of this committee and to the american public is that those are individuals. they are not data points, they were living and breathing citizens, whom we should care about. to the degree that the law produces perverse results, and i submit to that this result with martin, trayvon martin, was perverse, we do not know what is going to happen in the mcbath case, but to the degree it is a possibility, it is something we should look at. >> well said. the point about trials, having been in court a few times, if you believe that mr. zimmerman was -- that mr. martin was on top of mr. zimmerman and inflicting punishment, that would be a different view.
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if you believe he was just walking to the candy and a soda, which he obviously was, you wonder how can somebody be dead because of that. this is so complicated. the one thing i don't want us to do as politicians is to take away the ability of when it is your day in court to avail yourself of a lawful defense that has been recognized. the question for me is -- have we gone too far? >> senator, thank you for allowing me because that is exactly what i was feeling and wanted to present. there has been a large discussion of justice harlan, beard versus the united states. that is clearly an off justice -- an objective standard. if you look in you say in a way and with such force as an under all circumstances, he at the moment honestly believed and had reasonable grounds to believe were necessary to save his own life and protect himself from great bodily injury. that is exactly the problem, and that is why there have been so much prosecutor opposition to
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the sort of direction. the florida law, and we stand by the verdict. as he said, there are many times it is a point of what happens in court. that occurs. but based upon the law as they drafted it, there is a subjective belief. what did he believe at that time was occurring versus it being objective as well as immunity, and that is where you get trouble. in 2007, when i was the director of the american prosecution research institute, we published a piece on the castle doctrine well in advance. in that piece, we were concerned about racial implications. you go to what a person believes. when you have an heterogeneous population, you do not know what a person believes, especially because of age, skin, whatever that might be. because that is subjective, and
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allows him to go ahead and believe they are under danger and take a life. thank you for letting me speak. >> i would like to make a couple of comments. if you actually look at the data, look at the "tampa bay tribune" data there, account for the different factors in the case, you find that minorities, both blacks and hispanics, or have been more successful in raising "stand your ground" defenses than whites are. there is another point that needs to be made, and that is the ambiguity. one type of immunity has been discussed, but there is also the impurity that happened -- the ambiguity that having to face the person who is facing self- defense. what is the appropriate amounts of them having to retreat when they are going to defend themselves? who do we want to have to make do with that ambiguity? when somebody is facing very quick decisions that they have
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to make in terms of life and death, do we want to make them have to bear the burden, to try to figure out at that time how far they are going to have to retreat? and then make them realize that they may be second-guessed, as i have an appendix that shows a number of cases where they were second-guessed, and cases were legislatures and others thought that the second-guessing was wrong there. somebody who may need to act in self defense is stopped from doing so and thus endangering the safety of themselves or their family members that are there. finally, mr. labahn, when he was talking about being able to go and have the "stand your ground" apply, although you may be the initial aggressor there, he mentioned part of the law that he quoted. it goes on to say, but then it with very strict or surgeons on how you can use it in that case. it says stand your ground law is not available to the person who initially promotes the use of
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force against himself or herself unless a, he or she resolves every means to escape other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm, or b, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates fairly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw answer make -- and terminate the use of force. the bottom line is pretty simple. under "stand your ground," if someone initially provokes somebody else, then they are required to retreat. >> i want to thank this panel for your testimony and once again thank ms. fulton and ms. mcbath. thank you for coming and reliving some painful moments so we could put this hearing into context. i thank all the witnesses for your testimony. there has been a great deal of interest in today's hearing.
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submitted testimony for today's -- a number of organizations have submitted testimonies for today's hearing, including the naacp, the leadership conference on civil and american rights, the american nurses association, the center for media and democracy, the dream defenders, the american academy of pediatrics, the naacp legal defense and education fund, the newtown action alliance, moms demand action for gun sense, and many, many more. they will all be included in the record without objection. i would like to say that when solicitation was sent out for those members, publicly listed members, alec to tell me their status on his, volunteering if they were such information, some asked if their statement we made part of the record, and they will at the request. those that did not make that request will not be included. again, i do not want to create any chilling effects on participation in american politics. it is important that we reserve our constitutional rights to do so, but i thought it was appropriate to find out that the members of the organization
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stood by that policy position that was stated during the record will be open for one week to accept additional statements. written questions for the witnesses must also be submitted by the close of business one week from today tiered will ask witnesses to respond to those questions probably to complete the record. if there are no further comments, i want to thank the witnesses for attending today, my colleagues for participating, and the hearing stands adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
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>> important to the carriers i represent is the concept of universal service, the idea that all americans should have access to affordable telecommunications services. as we have gone through this evolution from telephone service to a broadband world, how do we ensure that rural americans have access to the same services and the same applications that come across those networks? net has been a big focus for us. we have been talking to the fcc about how important it is to retain universal service, what that means, and how that mechanism has allowed folks in rural high-cost areas to have comparable services. >> making the jump from copper wire to fiber optics in rural america, monday on "the communicators." tonight, author stephen kinzer.
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question time with prime minister david cameron. either, a rand corporation discussion on how measures for ensuring security can be >> this week on q&a, stephen kinzer discusses his new book, titled "the brothers: john foster dulles, allen dulles, and their secret world war." >> stephen kinzer, in your book, you tell a story up front about dulles airport in washington and the statue and the naming. what is that? >> john foster dulles had recently died when that super

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